Three Major Causes of Depression

Distressed Girl Holding Her Head

“How could Robin Williams be depressed?” We wonder.

How could anyone with that much money, fame, and success become so despondent that they would fall into the despair of suicide?

The answer is simple.  Regardless of wealth, status, or position, all people are susceptible to the discouragements of life.  The causes of depression are not “a respecter of persons.” 

As we noted earlier, there are many different reasons why people experience depression:  Disappointment.   Rejection. Loss of love. Physical Illness.  Death.  Financial setbacks. Feelings of Inadequacy.  Helplessness. Hopelessness. Stress of workload.  Unfair comparisons.  Inadequate goals.  Wrong perspectives.  And misplaced priorities.

Interestingly, many of the above problems are addressed in scripture.  A Biblical world view that guides your values will help you deal with the problem of depression.  Tomorrow we will discuss how we can find victory over depression.

In addition to the above issues are those who suffer from a biological malfunction, chemical imbalance, or postpartum depression.  Obviously, in such cases they need medical help.

However, in my reading, research and study over the years, there are three causes for depression that have stood out above the others.  They are addressed by respected authors like Dr. Jay E. Adams, Dr. Frank Minirth, Dr. Paul Meier, Tim LaHaye, and Dr. David Seamands, among many others.  Thankfully these three are addressed in scripture which offers us help and encouragement.

#1 Anger 

Depression is often defined as “anger turned inward” Dr. Paul Schmidt a practicing psychologist told me that “suppressed anger is one of the four main causes of depression.”  In The Psychology of Melancholy Dr. Mortimer Ostow says, “Generally, even in the cause of individuals who are susceptible to depression, some current insult is needed to trigger the depressive process.”

“Depression at every phase of its development,” writes Dr. Ostow, “includes a component of anger, whether visible or invisible, whether conscious or unconscious.”

The question is often asked, “Is anger a sin?”  No!  “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11).  However, uncontrolled anger is a sin.  Paul warned, “When angry do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury, or indignation) last until the sun goes down” (Eph. 4:26)

When anger settles into a deep bitterness, you can expect depression to follow.  And too often it then explodes in violent rage.  By learning to control our anger, we can minimize the onslaught of depressive feelings.

#2 Self Pity.

“Nothing produces depression faster or more deeply than self-pity,” writes Tim LaHaye.  He claims it is one of the primary causes of depression.  Professionals that I have consulted agree.

Here’s what happens.  You suffer some insult, injury or slight from another person.  It makes you angry.  Resentment settles in. Then multiply that by self-pity.  The result?  Depression!

The entire tone of the Bible is to “deny self.”  Jesus called for it.”If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt 16:24). Paul said he did.  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Self-denial is difficult in our culture.  Everyone has their rights.  And if they are violated, then a victim mentality ensues.  This leads to self-pity.  And finally depression.

#3 Unresolved Guilt.

Here’s a Bible description of nagging guilt.

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.   For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”  (Ps 32:4-5)

Who said this?

King David.

Why would one called “a man after God’s own heart” speak like this?

Because he was guilty of adultery!  Psalm 32 and 51 describe his emotional state.  David was depressed!  No doubt about it.

But he found help, hope and forgiveness through God’s love, mercy and grace. And so can you and I!

In no way am I suggesting that everyone who suffers depression is guilty of some unresolved sin.  However, it is one of the top three reasons for depression, as documented in detail by Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel.

The Bible says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov 28:13)

Being a Christian does not eliminate the challenge of depression, but it does provide a way of escape.  Paul confidently assured, “My God shall supply your every need’ (Phil 4:19)

Every need.  Physical.  Mental.  Spiritual.  And Emotional.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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